• Caroline Mattise

Forward Progress Episode 5: Princeton Football HC Bob Surace


Bob Surace, Head Football Coach at Princeton University, joins the podcast to talk about his experiences as an athlete and as a coach, as well as the importance of learning and growing from everyone we meet. And, he reveals who he believes is the greatest Princeton competitor ever. 


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TRANSCRIPTION


B: [00:00:00] I just think that if I'm sitting in a room with a bunch of 50-year-old white males that I knew before, we're not going to be a good team, it's just going to be a bunch of "yes" people, right. And we're not going to be better. We're just going to be the same. And if you're just the same in football, you're not going to be good for long. Probably holds true if you study this in business, it holds true in every single segment of society.

C: [00:00:34] Hi, everyone, and welcome to another episode of Forward Progress. I'm Caroline.

S: [00:00:37] And I'm Sophia.

C: [00:00:39] We have a very special guest with us today. So let's get started with what's been happening in sports.

S: [00:00:44] The L.A. Dodgers are World Series champions and the MLB part of the ownership group is Billie Jean King and Alana Kloss. So congratulations to them And the L.A. Dodgers.

C: [00:00:55] Secret deodorant announced that they're committing one million dollars, one million dollars to the Professional Women's Hockey Players Association, which this is the largest corporate donation ever made to women's hockey. And it's in order to launch the secret dream gap tour so that they can continue to build a sustainable women's pro hockey league.

S: [00:01:17] Heck yeah

C: [00:01:17] You love to see it.

S: [00:01:18] We love to see it.

S: [00:01:20] As you mentioned before, Caroline, our guest today is Bob Surace, head football coach at Princeton University. He's my boss, but he's also my mentor. And he means a lot to me. We get through a bunch of different things in a short period of as we possibly could with him. We go through his upbringing with his dad as a coach. We talk about his early experiences at Springfield College. We go through a little bit, you know, his time with the Bengals in the NFL. He talks about his mentors, the greatest competitors of all time at Princeton. We have a really great time. This one was really fun to record. I don't know about you, Caroline, but this one was my favorite.

C: [00:01:59] I mean, it was kind of a Sophia Lewin love fest, as Bob would put it, but it was awesome.

S: [00:02:05] We had a lot of fun. I hope you enjoyed this as much as we did. Let's get right to it.

S: [00:02:12] Thank you, Coach Surace, for joining us. We appreciate this so much and we appreciate your time. I do want to start from the beginning. You were born in Harrisburg, P.A. Caroline is also from Pennsylvania. There you go! They're rooting with their hands up because they can't see us. For those listening because they were very excited about it. But you grew up in Millville, New Jersey. Your dad was a football coach and a baseball coach. So can you talk about your early sport experience and kind of what you were like as a kid?

B: [00:02:40] I couldn't imagine. I think a lot of people probably say this, but a better childhood than growing up around a locker room. Millville high school. My high school is best known for Mike Trout. And at an early age, I was a bat boy for his baseball teams. And Mike's dad, Jeff, was just an incredible leader and player and I used to be a tagalong. So if my dad was on a bus, I was on the bus. If I didn't have my own game or school every weekend, I just was around locker rooms. And it's a very diverse population there. So I really got to experience everything. And when you're a little kid and you look up to in my world, Jeff Trout was Mike Trout or Jim McCormick was Ray Lewis or, you know, that type of player. And I got to experience that. And my dad used to bring guys on. They actually had a TV show. And before that TV show, the leaders or the guys on that show, usually seniors would have dinner in my house. And I just couldn't wait for Thursday nights to sit there and listen and just be a sponge. And I just enjoyed every bit of it.

S: [00:03:52] I can tell that you have been molded from those experiences because you bring alumni around to your house and have dinners and it's truly a family experience. And that's something that's directly related to how you grew up. But also, I think a lot of us who are sports fans or people that grew up playing sport, you have an athlete on a poster in your room. For me, it was Jason Kidd of the Nets, like he was everything I wanted to be one of the best passers ever and a leader. Who was that athlete for you? Like who did you idolize and want to be like?

B: [00:04:22] I loved Mike Schmidt. He was third baseman of the Philadelphia Phillies. For those of you that are young and might not, listening to the podcast, you know, but everything about him, how he played, how he grinded out at bats, how he just was so calm in pressure situations, Harry, I couldn't ever use Harry's voice, but "Michael Jack Schmitt."

S: [00:04:47] And I also know that you looked up to Muhammad Ali as well, know you've got your boxing gloves at home. And what's cool is your son, AJ, also, he looks up to Mike Trout now, like that's his guy, which is super cool.

C: [00:04:59] Yeah. Sophia said that and then now that I know that your school is famous for Mike Trout, that's another level to it.

B: [00:05:06] My first job, my first real real internship was doing this program called JTPA. And Mike's dad, Jeff, after he had a minor league career, came back to my high school, actually, because my dad transitioned out of baseball, became an athletic director. Jeff Trout replaced my dad as the head coach. But Jeff hired me to be a teacher and it was for students in need, students coming from backgrounds where they weren't supported in really math type segment. And I got to teach math to kids who were not much younger than me, young high school age kids. So I really became close with Jeff Trout in a different way. And we followed Mike, Mikey, as my parents would say, my mom was his nursery school teacher, preschool teacher. And so through his upbringing and all of his exploits and Mike is the spitting image of Jeff in terms of his teamwork and leadership, just somebody who's a great listener and worker. And, you know, he'll have a pop up to the second baseman and he'll be on second base by the time he catches it. So just the way he does things.

S: [00:06:13] So you're growing up and you go to Millville. What was your recruiting process? Because you attended Princeton University and you played offensive line, but what was that process like? Because I know you're talking to recruits all the time, but you were once quite literally in their shoes.

B: [00:06:26] Yeah, and I'm probably a lot like our recruits in that I was a little bit intimidated by Princeton and I didn't believe in myself. They really took my guidance counselor, Sandy Rowe, who my dad worked with to help people get to college. And my dad would work hand in hand with guidance counselors to try to find fits for the seniors. It's now younger kids with recruiting, but with the seniors to figure out what schools would be good fit. And when Princeton offered me, I didn't want to visit, I was like, I'm not going to fit in. It's going to be a country club, all those things. And my parents were very even keeled and wanted me to come through the decision to get there. But she told my dad, if I don't visit Princeton, she'll never work with him again. I can choose whatever. But I need to visit Princeton. I am a very good student, a talented student, and you don't just turn that part down, and I realized it wasn't that way. And as I met the players on the team and the coaches and the type of people that were there, they were just high achievers like me. Some of them came from different socioeconomic levels. But you were never treated differently because maybe you're from a middle class background and you didn't go to the high end prep school.So

S: [00:07:43] So you attend Princeton? You end up choosing it, which was, I would say, one of the smartest moves. And I'm really glad you did. So you play center, you're an offensive lineman, you play the interior position, and then also you go on it and you have a really successful career. You were named all Ivy. You were history major. And I really want you to touch on what you did your thesis paper on. Because I was really interested in how you told it to me in that story of what you wrote your paper about and maybe why you wrote it.

B: [00:08:09] Yeah, I think it was our first conversation that we had when we talked about it. And at Princeton, if you are a non-engineer, you have to do a thesis. It's a research paper or project depending on specific majors. And as a history major, pretty much anything that happened the day before becomes history. So you can choose a wide variety of topics. Before that, you do junior papers which kind of lead into the research paper. I did my junior papers on the Negro Leagues of Baseball. I love the fact that you titles called Forward Progress because the title of it was a quote by Satchel Paige that "don't look back, something might be gaining on you." Right. And so you're always looking forward and wrote about that. And I wanted to go and stay in sports after. I wasn't good enough to be an NFL player. I was a six foot one twenty and thirty five pound center. But I wanted to be in sports. And the impact that you could have has a leader in a sports organization. I wasn't sure if it was coaching or management at that time when I was 20 years old, but I knew I wanted to stay in sports. And, you know, I had this great interest and intrigue on the integration of baseball. So my topic was management's role in the integration of baseball. Really looking from a management side with Branch Rickey, especially who was the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and then Jackie Robinson, who was the first black baseball player to play in the major leagues. Basically one hundred pages of research and everything else. But it didn't seem like work because I loved the topic. It was very educational for somebody who was going to eventually go into coaching a sport that requires the ability to communicate effectively with people of all different backgrounds. And Jackie Robinson and the things that were done to him, the courage he had, people spitting on him, calling him the worst names and everything else, and the courage he showed to show up at work every day and overcome those struggles was amazing. But also from a management's perspective, the resolve that Branch Rickey had, A just selecting Jackie Robinson, someone who served our country in the military and was integrated at UCLA, in college, was a multi sport athlete who he felt could handle these horrendous, like just horrendous, horrendous things that were being said to him and even some of his teammates who didn't want him there and how Jackie threw his attitude, great play, character, work ethic, courage, all those things was able to overcome them. Then later on become somebody that really most of society cherished. And really, the changes that happened in the nineteen sixties might not have happened so soon if it wasn't for sports and the change that happens and can happen through sports.

S: [00:11:09] Yeah, absolutely. I think one of the things that I loved learning in college about sport was a lot of the social and cultural changes happened within sport and in particular team sports, and then transcended to larger things like legal process and laws and and became the norm outside of sport. But it really does in a lot of instances, and especially in this one, start with a player being selected intentionally and very specifically to break the color barrier. And I don't mean that in this kind of like, beautiful way of like, oh, yeah, you broke it and now we're good now. No, it was just the beginning of it. But the courage that it took the management, which is a cool way of thinking about it, like the courage of everybody on that part to have him be the person to do that. So I think that story is really cool. And that was one of the first things that we talked about, because it shows a lot about you, because I think the fact that you studied the management of it is like you knew you could be an agent of change. Maybe you weren't going to be Jackie Robinson, but you would be the management to hire someone like that.

B: [00:12:12] I think we're well aware we talk a lot about identity. Like, you know, your first podcast, that was a big part of it. And I learn from those things. You know, you're constantly trying to educate yourself on these things and the why. But is somebody who is white, I'm never going to be the first, right. I'm never going to be Jackie Robinson. But maybe in a small way I can help play the roles that Branch Rickey did, just by being open minded and being, as you said, intentional in how you do things and being open minded and looking at things in a way. And at the end of the day, look at the teams that were open minded to bringing in players that were black and players of color and how successful they became. Right. And not only was it a matter of social justice, but it also helped them win and it covered both grounds. And those two things are very important to me, that A there's the competitive advantage. Jackie Robinson was an MVP. The people that came after him may not have gotten that opportunity if there wasn't a first.

S: [00:13:18] Absolutely.

C: [00:13:19] Ok, so you graduated Princeton. You were a history major. You said that your first job was teaching math at your high school then. So then what was your first experience of coaching?

B: [00:13:30] So I did the JPTA program while I was a junior at Princeton and my offensive line coach, I think it's so important for young people, whether it's while they're in college or shortly after college, to find people that believe in them. Craig Cayson was my offensive line coach and he believed in me. And he was a major role in what was called contact football camp. And I used to tag along with him in the summer and I got to meet all these coaches. And it was just because he believed in me and that I could be maybe successful as a coach and from their connections at Princeton helped me get an interview with Springfield College. So my first coaching job was Springfield College. And I was a GA, a graduate assistant, and I got my masters in sports management, master's in education, but specifically in sports management. It's really a cradle of coaches. There was a few full time coaches, but it was nine GAs. We all lived in a house together. And when we were in class or we were coaching football, we were living together, talking football. And I think that camaraderie is such a big part of it. I hope, as I've been able to coach with staffs, there's a growth that when really high achieving smart people are together and discuss football, we get better at what we do, might not just be football, might just be life and we get better and you have dialogue. Those two years were central to who I am as a coach because there were professors there, Dr. Murray, Murray and Dr. Mann, that were so influential in my life. And the learning I did there, which was different than my learning at Princeton. It was more specific to a task, was incredible.

C: [00:15:16] Do you ever get tired of just eat, sleep and drinking football all day?

B: [00:15:21] I don't. I think.

C: [00:15:23] That's good.

B: [00:15:23] I try to have some balance in life with my children and family. But I think I've done the best I can to figure out prioritizing my life, what is important in my life. And, you know, as you get older, sometimes you listen to your athletes. I try to do that all the time and really hear what they're saying. And we had a player named Seth Devalve. I had him come back. He was in the NFL. I had him come back and speak to the team and he talked about where he got good, was realizing there were three things that really mattered. His faith. He was a mechanical and aerospace engineer his education, and football. And then everything else, video games and social aspects. They only came after he got what he needed out of those three things and sticking with us. Like football and the people I'm surrounded with. Sophia'll tell you there's one hundred plus people on our team, there's twenty people on our staff, the people in our athletic department. That takes up a lot of time. And it's not just X's and O's, it's the conversations you have with people that hope to see them grow that way. And I try. This is the first fall I've ever been really present in my family's life. But once we get winter, spring, summer, I really try to prioritize being present in their lives and make up for it during those times.

S: [00:16:48] Yeah, and your family's super busy, so their sometimes not even present for your life. They're like, yeah, I'm too busy for you right now.

B: [00:16:54] Yeah, yeah. Let's be clear. So Sophia was a housemate. She had a long commute and she was a housemate with us. And so she saw life in the Surace house with my wife, who's an education administrator before the pandemic. But right now, during a pandemic, she was. Tasked with bringing her school back. She's working longer hours than I am in a much more important situation. And then we're both starting really after George Floyd, figuring out how we can best improve and really be better in terms of the social justice, racial equality, those type things. So every walk we went for, we had great talks. Her being the high school and lower levels and me being at the college level with those things that way. And I have kids who are involved in so many activities that she saw just the rush to eat to get to study or do work or do those things. All the while, Sophia keeps herself one hundred percent busy, so she really fit right in with our family. And so having four people that were five people just running from this to that and the chaos fit her perfectly. So, you know, for a short period of time, she became part of us.

S: [00:18:11] I felt so at home. It speaks volumes again about you and Lisa as well, just how you opened your home up to me. And there aren't many people in the world that would do that. But then also that we fit right in because we're all just sort of busy and doing a lot of things. And your kids are so driven and focused, too. So it was like this match made in heaven. Anyway, enough about us. (laughter) You've coached at the Division three level and won, you've coached for the CFL, the Canadian Football League. You've coached in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals for a long time. And then you came back to Princeton and were hired as the head coach and you've had such success. You won three Ivy League titles in '13, '16, and then the undefeated season in twenty eighteen. I'm so glad you went undefeated in 2018 because Monmouth played you while I was at Monmouth, and you guys, to put it lightly, murdered us in that game

C: [00:19:03] Hahaha to put it lightly.

S: [00:19:05] Absolutely demolished. Yes. But to be fair, you had three NFL players, future NFL players on that roster which learning about now and learning about the people that they are, that lost us as much, seeing it on film every time we watch it. But you've had tremendous success, and I love that you mentioned Seth Devalve as well, because he was one of the few white players in the NFL to kneel in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick and against police brutality. What was it about that Seth Devalve or John Lovett or the incredible players that you've coached? Maybe that didn't make the NFL as well. What was that X Factor that kind of united them all? That made them different?

B: [00:19:42] There's a will that they have to be in college and to be at a place like Princeton, they're smart and they've got great support systems, people as they grew up that believed in them, as I said before, and all those things. But they have this drive that I just think the elite people, athletes or educators or business people, they have this incredible drive now. They do it with ethics and standards. Not everybody who is elite does it with those same ethics and standards. They have incredible moral high ground standards that they hold themselves to as well. But their drive is just different. They push me to figure out ways to push them, right. And, you know, as a coach. I always say, like, our goal is to push somebody beyond what they think they're capable of. Well, these guys didn't have limits on terms of what they were capable of, so they forced us to be creative in ways to push them. I mean, John was a full time job, figuring out ways to push him and to get him to be the best player he could be, the best leader he could be because he was so passionate about being great, about being the best that way. And as I study, I really try to study in the pandemic. I've been able to read more. What do the people with the highest standards of excellence, what do they share in common? It's this drive to be incredible. Though some people will do that however means necessary, and they'll bang trash cans or whatever else or take PEDs or things like that. These guys are figuring out ways to do it without shortcuts.

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C: [00:21:53] During your time at Princeton, whether you were your undergrad or when you came back and were coaching, who were some of your favorite athletes to watch across any of the sports?

B: [00:22:02] Oh, my gosh. So, you know, I was literally on a phone call with Jerry Price, who's been the head of athletic communications, and he's now covering the 50 years of women's athletics. Which is kind of cool for me because I married a Princeton female athlete and I said, are you going to do a list of the top 50 female athletes? Because we can't. Because where do you cut it off? Right. And best in my time, the relationships I've had women's basketball offices are right next to ours. And Courtney Banghart, who was the women's coach, she's now at University of North Carolina. She was a neighbor of ours. She lived a few houses down the road and became a close friend. And when I got to Princeton, she was somebody I leaned on what we needed to do to be the program I wanted us to be. And so we became close friends. But then the (inaudible) through the Blake Dietrich's through the Bella Alarie's, like Ashleigh Johnson's the greatest water polo player in the world. Right. There's nobody better than Ashleigh Johnson in the world. I didn't get to know Ashleigh very well, but I went and watched women's water polo and you could tell she was just special as a competitor that way. My favorite, and I don't want to diminish anybody else. Right. I don't want to diminish all the greats and Mollie Marcoux-Samaans, who's our AD, is as good as any competitor. Like I said it, I played with Jason Garrett. Mollie's the best competitor during my time at Princeton. But Tyler Lussi. I just loved watching her play. I just loved watching her compete. I loved hearing how she trained. I brought her up often to our team as an example of what the great competitors and what they do. And, you know, sometimes, and Sophia is part of the emails I'll send, on a Kobe Bryant or LeBron James or Jimmy Butler or those type of athletes, because I think they want to see what those athletes are doing. But Tyler Lussi was somebody I brought up often to our team.

S: [00:24:00] Tyler Lussi plays for the Portland Thorns in the NWSL. They were the top ranked team in the fall series and they helped through the community shield, which was sponsored by Verizon. We are not sponsored by Verizon. They donated a lot of money for a local business in Portland. So, yes, Tyler is an ultimate competitor and then also their sport is making a difference. But, yeah, I love what you send us. And then you also talked about how when the US women's national soccer team won the World Cup in twenty fifteen, you were sending a bunch of stuff about Carli Lloyd at the time. I mean, she scored three goals, one at midfield. That's basically like hitting a half court shot, though. I love that you use inspirational athletes are people that are top notch competitors, but there in any sport, any gender, any race. And they're not just the same people that you see on ESPN every day.

B: [00:24:47] Carly's not Princeton, but she went to Delran, which is South Jersey. Man, I just love watching her play and lead. And, you know, she still is someone who's getting towards the back end of her career. She's still such a great leader and competitor. You know, I hope she can continue through the Olympics and cap off her career.

C: [00:25:12] Sophia wants to know your book recommendations.

B: [00:25:16] You know, it's interesting and I said it on the call with this coaching staff. I'm only about a third of the way done, but I really admired Sam Acho as a player. He won the Campbell Award for the top scholar athlete. If somebody gets a little bit nervous about the religious part, he gets a little bit religious on it (Acho's book "Let the World See You: How to Be Real in a World Full of Fakes"). But just talking about taking your masks off. Right. And I find it in myself when I was younger, my children, my players. It's really hard for them because you're always worried about the social dynamics. What if I embarrass myself? What if I do this? He's so truthful and I identify with so much of what he talks about and I see it in our team sometimes that it's really it's refreshing. I'm not only one third of the way through, but I just got that book. I think Sophia the other one, I might have mentioned you is the QB factor. Did I mention that to you?

S: [00:26:09] Yeah. Brian Billick.

B: [00:26:10] As a football coach. I think that one, especially if you aspire to go to the professional level and coach offense, if you make the right decision on Kyle Murray or who was picked first or Lamar Jackson was picked 32nd or Brady was picked in the sixth round, your fortunes are tied to a quarterback long term. And if you picked the wrong one, you're in this cycle that's just as hard to get out that way. And in college, we have natural turnover every four years, so we can't hold on John Lovett for 20 years. So it's a really, really, I thought good book. The book I read, I forget the title, but it was about just examining great athletes through the years. At some point I'll get you to stop over because you can always select any from that there are on my desk or any that are there. The Intangibles book was awesome, by the way.

S: [00:27:08] Yeah, I recommended that earlier to Bob during the pandemic and he went on and gave our team a little homework assignment about it, which I hope they didn't mind too much, but it was a really good book and I think it moved quickly through a lot of things which I loved about it.

B: [00:27:23] You know, what it did for the guys, and they put thought into it, allowed them to think through, who is the person in terms of these leadership roles? Which one do they identify as "the sage" or who do they identify in these roles? And it allows me to see who they think in these roles because Luke Timm was easy, like every one of them had him as "the jester", right?

S: [00:27:49] Yeah,

B: [00:27:49] You know that way. So some of them I think we're near unanimous in terms of that. But it was pretty cool to see how they thought of their teammates.

S: [00:27:59] Yeah, Luke Timm brings the juice. One hundred percent.

S: [00:28:04] You and I could talk all day long and I know we do it every time I get on the phone with you. It's at least an hour. It doesn't feel like that because you tell me stories and we learn a lot about each other and we have this back and forth.

B: [00:28:15] I'm glad you feel comfortable because as a young person, your ability to do that is going to just help you throughout life, because not many people your age are just going to say or do that. I know when I was first in the NFL, it was Dick Lebeau. It wasn't like you could just go up and speak to him. You talk to the person you were working with and maybe they talk to their person. And there was like this bureaucracy. With Marvin (Marvin Lewis former head coach of the Bengals), and maybe it's just a different time frame. Dick was about in his late sixties when he was our head coach and he was a great person that way. But he was a little bit old school in how he handled the personal dynamics. Marvin, didn't matter who you were in the organization, ticket sales, assistant offensive line coach, assistant head coach. He would listen to you if you ever had a suggestion or a talking point. And I just found the warmth there. My wife never met Dick Lebeau. I worked there for an entire year with him. It just, he didn't understand that camaraderie part. Marvin, within a week of his hire, once everybody was hired, he had all the coaches and their wives together and he built a family ish type atmosphere. And I think that you always give a little extra for that person on both ends. You know, they actually care about you. I think sometimes in staff meetings you want dialogue and you want everybody to contribute. But it takes time for people to have the comfort level to actually contribute. Hopefully through time, everybody realizes they can figure out ways to say what they think. And especially today, because we're not just talking about football. There's so many more important things we’re trying to educate ourselves on.

S: [00:29:59] I love that. And our meetings, I'm not afraid, even though I'm the lowest of the low on the totem pole, sort to speak, I wouldn't be afraid to say something or when we're getting ready because the pandemic and we. To send out an email to recruits, they couldn't come and it was you come to me and you said, draft up this email and we can go over an email that I drafted up with everybody in the room, like the confidence that that builds in me. And it was something so small. You probably haven't thought about it since then, but it was something small where I felt valued and included and important in the room, which if you're not trying to include and make people feel safe and important and heard and valued in a room, you can easily overlook that. But you're the epitome of walking the walk. And I don't even think you talk the talk like you don't even want the credit. You don't look for any of it. You're just saying, I'm going to do the right thing all the time, no matter who's watching, because I know that that's the way that I should operate. And you do that by hiring Maya Callender or as your director of football operations, you do that by having a diverse staff. You do that by giving an opportunity to somebody that maybe isn't normally given an opportunity in this space because, you know, it's the right thing. And not just hiring them, but then building a culture and having the culture in place where they can come in and be included and valued and be made to feel safe and important, because that's also the piece is not enough to just have somebody who is, quote unquote, diverse racially or gender and to actually make them feel included in what you're doing. You do that and you do that in a sport that has never done that in the history of it. And no one's going to say your name and those conversations of people that are moving the conversation forward. But they should. They absolutely should. And I will be the person advocating for you. I know you'll never be that person at the forefront of the stage saying, hey, look at me, look at what I'm doing. But that's absolutely what I respect about you, because Al Davis of the Raiders did the same thing. He hired without regard of race and gender. And he hired the right person every time.

B: [00:31:57] He always was open minded in so many ways, whether it is Amy Trask or Art Shell or whoever, he was very open minded. And I just think that I'm sitting in a room with a bunch of fifty year old white males that I knew before. We're not going to be a good team. It just could be a bunch of "yes" people. Right. And we're not going to be better. We're just going to be the same. And if you're just the same in football, you're not going to be good for long. Probably holds true if you study this in business. It holds true in every single segment of society. If we just stay the same, we just group ourselves with who we are. And again, it's a lot of learning. Maybe some people that I work with that I wouldn't do things the way they did them. But I also got to work with Marvin and Marvin probably should have been a head coach long before he was. And Marvin was very open minded in who he hired. He allowed everybody to have a voice. I always thought he was very forward thinking and very open to different things. It didn't mean like the standards change, like excellence was still a standard. Katie Blackburn, who is Mike Brown's daughter, who's going to eventually be the owner and run the organization, she's kind of running it now. You know, there were people in the organization discounted her voice because she was not like them. And I always thought she was the strongest voice or should have been the strongest voice. She was the most intelligent. She was the most prepared. And I built a really good relationship with her and her husband, Troy Blackburn, because they worked so hard and they were so intelligent. I really feel like the disconnect between some of the people in our organization that didn't listen to them, set us back. And that's not right. And when you get a chance to be in a leadership position, you learn from those mistakes.

S: [00:33:53] All right, any last question, Caroline?

C: [00:33:54] So we want to get to our last two questions, our best questions of the podcast. You already gave Sophia your ice cream sandwich. So why don't you tell everybody what your ideal ice cream sandwich would be?

B: [00:34:07] Now I'm blanking on it, but I want to say my ice cream was black raspberry chip from Graeter's. So I'm not sure that's what I put in. No? What did i put in for my ice cream?

S: [00:34:17] Something like caramel something.

B: [00:34:19] Oh, my goodness. Baskin Robbins, cookies and cream on that. And my coverings were waffles on that. So if you ever go to Millville, there's a place called Blinker Custard. And my dad is probably the height of his success, used to do these commercials and he could get free ice cream, at Blinker Custard.

C: [00:34:39] Oh, my God.

B: [00:34:40] So when you're a kid or a younger kid like that's like the ultimate like, if (inaudible) everytime, I could get free ice cream, I'd weigh like 400 pounds. They used to do this waffle ice cream. I could put waffles on just about anything that way. Two ice creams I love more than any pralines and cream is one for Baskin-Robbins, but it wouldn't go as much with the waffles. But if you ever go to Cincinnati, Ohio, or you go to Whole Foods, if you guys love ice cream, give black raspberry chip ice cream from Graeter's. It Is incredible.

C: [00:35:15] And then our final question. When you were growing up, what is a sport that you wish you saw more or learned about?

B: [00:35:23] Oh, that's a great question, because I think I played just about every sport you could play as a child. And fun fact: My dad used to manage a sailing I mean, a swim club, but then he managed a sailing and tennis club. I used to play tennis with this guy in doubles, Terry Bombeck, who was like one of the best tennis players in our area, and we won a doubles tournament once at our club. Against like really like all South Jersey guys. I was pretty good at doubles. I'm not a great singles player.

C: [00:35:50] Me too so it's okay.

B: [00:35:51] I'm a much better team player than individual, I would say.

C: [00:35:58] I agree with that. I understand

B: [00:35:59] But we didn't have lacrosse. I didn't know lacrosse until I got to Princeton. I've never seen lacrosse or anything else. My daughter plays lacrosse and I've been able to watch so much more of it. When I got to Princeton, a lot of our football players played it. I would have loved to do that. And I wish I grew up in a community where there was more availability to skate. I think a lot of people probably say that. It's kind of an isolated sport. I loved playing street hockey, but I just wasn't in an area or community where it was quite as available. The skating part.

S: [00:36:36] I love street hockey. That was like my sport as a kid.

B: [00:36:39] So what's your specialty? Are you like an attack or forward or you defenseman or what's your thing with the street hockey?

S: [00:36:46] I prefer being a winger because I like those cross. Well, it's not even ice, but it's crossed street passes where they just where you get the goalie offline. Listen to our dads are the goalies, so if you can get them offline, they're usually not as fast as like a Henrik Lundqvist or anybody like that to move over. So I like being a winger. Most of the time. I got stuck as a defenseman because like myself and my neighbor, who's a girl, and so we were both the defenders and we took a lot of block shots. So my shins as a kid were just bruised from a block shots as a defender. But I did not like defense. I didn't like defense as a basketball player either because my feet weren't quick enough. But anyway,

B: [00:37:26] Yeah, just, you know, you like to shoot. You like to score. I get it. So, you know, you you want the other name in the paper.

S: [00:37:33] I actually I really got my name in the paper for softball, but that was because I hit the only home run I hit ever of my career was a grand slam. It won the game.

C: [00:37:42] OK.

S: [00:37:43] I'm just saying!

B: [00:37:43] Was it a walk off?

[00:37:46] It wasn't a walk off. It won the game the next inning, but it was an 0-2 count two outs, bases loaded, hammered it to center, which is the farthest part of the field.

C: [00:37:54] I mean, all right, we're cutting you off there.

B: [00:37:57] Caroline, next time I do this, it will not be a Sophia love fest.

C: [00:38:00] You certainly are doing great work and making sure that everyone's voices are heard on your team, on your staff, within football as a whole. And we just thank you so much for being on the podcast today. And we loved talking to you.

B: [00:38:16] I look forward to seeing you in person, Caroline. I can't wait till Sophia can be back in person. And we miss the social interactions. And, you know, I know we started this. Why you going to coaching? But part of it is the ability to lead and be in these social interactions because they're so important and engaging in dialogue with people you care about. It becomes respectful when it's people you care about. And that's what gets the needle moving when it's people you don't know. If you only sit at the same table and there's other people at the other table, the dialogue isn't respectful. And we have a country right now that's divisive. And somehow we got to bring it back to respectful and have open, engaging dialogue that's fair to all people. And, you know, if I can be like a small agent of that and that's all I'm going to be right. I'm not going to be in this politically leadership group, you know, to make the bigger change. But in a small way, just get us to be less divisive, find open dialogue and come to respect others. A sport like football that naturally is diverse, socioeconomically, racially, at some point it's going to be gender diverse. We're making little progress in that way. You know, we got a chance to do better.

C: [00:39:38] Forward progress is produced by Caroline Mattise with a little help from Sophia Lewin.

S: [00:39:43] True.

C: [00:39:44] And is brought to you by Best Available Player. Find more podcasts, articles and video content related to sports and entertainment on bestavailableplayer.com. All the music in this podcast is by James Barrett, a good friend and an even better musician. Be sure to check him out on your favorite music streaming platform. And because we're all about inclusivity and accessibility, each podcast of Forward Progress will be transcribed and available on bestavailableplayer.com.